In 2011, I bought a popup camper that needed some work.

Well, let me start over.

More than a few years ago, I thought it would be a good idea to make some memories for my kids by taking them camping.

We did the tent camping thing.

It was fun for them. They loved it.

For my wife and I, well…it was work.

Tent. Tarp. Stove. Table. Chairs. Sleeping bags.

Cook. Clean. Laundry.

It was just like home, only harder. ‘Cause you’re in the “wilderness” and all.

So back to the start of this post.

In 2011, I bought a popup camper that needed some work.

I could save some serious scratch by taking someone else’s discarded project or eyesore and make it our own.

Enter the Viking.

A 2000 Viking popup camper. It was on Craigslist for cheap.

“Just a little water damage,” it read.

It had good bones. It was structurally sound, and the canvas was good (although stained from the water leak.)

I negotiated and took it home for less than I was willing to pay.

Here’s the day I brought it home.

Dad blog rebuilds the roof on a 2000 viking popup camper

I cranked up the roof to inspect it closer and…

Whoa.

2000 Viking popup camper roof rebuild interior photo

Well it looked worse than it was.

It was at this point that I had to figure out how to build a roof. I looked through online forums and formulated a game plan. Bought parts and supplies.

And then realized this was a bigger project than I expected.

I was going to make this post a “Hey I’m done!”-kind of post. But with a big project, or lengthy project, you need to do certain things for success.

So now this is a “here’s-what-I-do-to-get-through-my-projects” –kind of post.

Guiding Principles for your DIY project

Here are some basic principles that I can apply to any project:

Take it Apart

Don’t be afraid to DIY. Take it apart. Look, taking stuff apart is fun, you see how well (or bad) it is constructed, and most of the time you don’t have to worry since whatever you are working on is broke or sucked to begin with, so if you can’t put it back together then, no loss.

Well, maybe a loss.

Okay, yes there could be a loss, but pretty much anything can be fixed. Just take it apart.

Document

So you took it apart, right? How does it go back together? Was that thing facing up or down? Did this bolt have a lock washer? What’s the name of the fifth studio album by REM?

When you take it apart, snap some pictures so you know how to put it together. And put the parts in a baggie. Label the baggie. Love the baggie. That way four years from now, when you finally start assembling the camper, you know that the thing goes this way and it has a lock washer ‘cause you pulled it out of a baggie.

I used Photoshop Elements organizer to catalog all my photos for projects. I’m not selling you here, but I tagged each photo with keywords so I could reference in the future. You’ll come up with a system. Just have photos. And baggies.

Make Lists

List making will help you get there. What do I have to do? What parts do I need? Where did I put those parts I bought? What’s for dinner?

In my “I Live for the Projects” post, I mentioned restoring an old truck. I have so many parts for that truck, I had to come up with a spreadsheet list to catalog them as to the type of part (engine, interior, chassis, etc), the condition of the part (new, worn, needs restoring, etc) and where I am storing the part (on this- or that-shelf, in bin #6, etc).

You’ll find that making lists will save time, whether it’s what you need to buy or that final assembly list of “to-dos.”

Plan for Slop

Oh…look. They built this using staples and no glue. Or…they just mudded over this outlet when drywalling. Or…they happened to forget to insulate this whole wall.

When I bought my house, I planned for 10% slop—questionable workmanship when repairing crap in my house. Most of it performed by unhandymen (or unhandywomen) over the years. So get ready to pay 10% more. Add 10% time to your schedule, etc.

Well, nah, not really. Jack that up to 25% and you have a realistic number.

Buy Extra

“Oh, I’ll just need 16 stainless screws for that vent panel.”

No you won’t.

You’ll somehow need 28. So you’ll huck it back up to Lowe’s or wherever to buy another package of ¾” stainless pan head screws. When you get home, you’ll realize you need them in 1” and 1 ¼” too. And you forgot to buy a new fetzer valve or widget bearings or something-or-other, and make another trip. So buy extra. Return what you don’t use, or save it for the next project. And make lists, remember?

So what do you do to get through a project? Comment, as I’d like to know.

And, as for the camper, here’s the shot of it finished:

popup-camper-done-sm

I’ll do a wrap up post of that soon!

 

Thanks for coming.

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